Saturday, January 27, 2007


Crane Wife
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao.
The Decemberists: The Crane Wife was voted the best CD of 2006 by the listeners of National Public Radio’s program “All Things Considered.” The album was inspired by a Japanese folk tale, and centers on two song cycles, The Crane Wife and The Island, the latter of which was inspired by William Shakespeare's The Tempest.

The Crane Wife has also inspired me. I have shortened the Decemberists’ lyrics to the version I give here. I played the song repeatedly as I made this painting- from the scan of a Korean coin out of my cookie jar and some sheet metal I found in the middle of the highway we take to go sailing…in the summer.

It was a cold night
And the snow lay 'round
I pulled my coat tight
Against it falling down
And the sun was all...
the sun was all down.

I am a poor man
I haven't wealth nor fame
I have my two hands
and a house to my name
And the winter's so...
the winter's so long.

And all the stars were crashing 'round
As I laid eyes on what I'd found.

It was a white crane
It was a helpless thing
Upon a red stain
With an arrow in its wing
and it called and cried...
it called and cried so.

And now I helped her
now I dressed her wounds
And I held her
Beneath the rising moon
As she stood to fly...
she stood to fly away

My crane wife.

While there are many variations of the old Japanese tale, a common version is that a poor man finds an injured crane on his doorstep, takes it in and nurses it back to health. After releasing the bird, a woman appears at his doorstep with whom he falls in love and marries. Because they need money, his wife offers to weave wondrous clothes out of silk that they can sell at the market, but only if he agrees never to watch her making them. They begin to sell them and live a comfortable life, but he soon makes her weave them more and more. Oblivious to his wife's diminishing health, his greed increases. He eventually peeks in to see what she is doing to make the silk she weaves so desirable. He is shocked to discover that at the loom is a crane plucking feathers from her own body and weaving them into the loom. The crane, seeing him, flies away and never returns.

(Thanks to Wikipedia for this Info.)

1 comment:

Chiya said...

I love this song (well, both of them) ... I'm writing an essay for english class about them.